French Defence Minister Florence Parly will witness the induction of the first batch of Rafale combat jets into the Indian Air Force on September 10 at Ambala, Haryana.
This will be Parly’s third official visit to India since 2017, and one of her first trips abroad since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parly is expected to take forward cooperation in key areas such as the Indo-Pacific and joint exercises, sources said.
France is one of India’s closest partners in defence and security. The country has also supported efforts at world bodies such as the UN and the Financial Action Task Force to crack down on terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
France recently provided India 120 ventilators and 50,000 test kits to counter the COVID-19 pandemic. It has also announced it will provide financial aid of up to 200 million euros to support vulnerable sections of society affected by the pandemic.
A statement issued by the French embassy on Wednesday said that Parly’s visit is aimed at strengthening France’s “forward-looking defence cooperation with India, its foremost Asian strategic partner.”
She will meet her Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.
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“Their broad-ranging talks will cover, among others, industrial and technological partnership in line with the Make in India programme, operational defence cooperation, particularly maritime security in the Indo-Pacific, modalities of continuing the armed forces’ joint exercises in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, counter-terrorism cooperation, as well as major regional and international strategic issues,” the statement said.
In a video message posted on Twitter, French ambassador Emmanuel Lenain described the visit as one of the “next steps” in the bilateral relationship.
During her visit to air force station Ambala for the ceremony to induct the Rafale jets, Parly will be received by the Defence Minister Singh and IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria.
Representatives of French defence majors such as Dassault Aviation, Thales Group, Safran and MBDA will be part of the the French minister’s delegation. These French firms have teamed with Indian companies as part of the Rafale agreement.